29th – 30th June 2013
Knights, jesters, jousters and Queens,
Landshut becomes entirely more than it seems.
A quaint little town, all colours and ornate,
goes back in time to celebrate.
Not one year, two, three or 4…
but 5 centuries, 3 decades and 8 years more!
A wedding, a banquet, an enchanting sight,
1475, year of Landshutter Hochzeit,
Fan fares, parades, knights on great steeds…
a historical pageant…lets see where it leads!
538 years ago in Landshut a huge celebration was afoot and since 1903, every 4 years the town goes back in time to re-enact the historical wedding of the Polish Kings daughter, Hedwig, and George, the Duke of Landshut’s son.
Along with Apple Love Events, we agreed that our timing was just too good to pass up the chance of celebrating a wedding of our own alongside such a wonderfully celebrated union!
The historical pageant is among one of the greatest in Europe and more than 2000 participants dress in mediaeval costumes and bring to life a festival in all the splendour of the Late Middle Ages.
In 1474 ambassadors had been sent to Poland to negotiate the marriage and in the autumn of 1475 the 18 year old bride departed from Krakow with a large escort and arrived in Landshut after a long two month journey.
Princes and Bishops welcomed the bride and the union was referred to as a “divine ordinance for the benefit of Christendom and the Empire”.
In the majestic church, the Archbishop of Salzburg conducted the ceremony and then the bridal procession moved through the spacious main street towards the castle.
From the windows of the houses ladies watched the knights jousting and in the town hall the Emperor led the first dance with the bride and ten thousand guests applauded, played and danced.
In the very same town but hundreds of years on, all of this is re-enacted every day for 4 weeks. Thousands participate in costumes made to replicate the originals exactly.
The wedding parade is just a small section of the festival the entire lifestyle is replayed. From the journey of the Princess and her arrival to the celebrations around the camp fire the night before the wedding to the festivities after the unity.
Ground knights joust, jesters juggle, fire- eaters show their tricks and bonfires burn with suckling pigs turning above them. Tankards of ale are passed around while mercenaries and horsemen perform battle scenes with the backdrop of authentic music played on authentic instruments and the guilds’ elders gather for a solemn dance bearing torches in their hands.
Everything is as close to as it was 538 years ago and everyone gives 100% effort to their roles…hence our meeting with a drunken Knight the evening before, he was very much in character.
As we arrived the whole town was buzzing in anticipation of the next re-enactment. Performers wandered the streets and entertained the masses with tricks, jests and throwing small acrobatic children around in the air. Flags adorned every building lining the Aldstadt (the main street) and people hung out of windows on upper floors to make sure they didn’t miss a thing. It was such a lovely atmosphere and we were right in the thick of it.
It had been a busy morning, after our late night not everyone was as bright and raring to go as we had hoped and we loitered around a while waiting for everyone to be ready to spring into action.
We hurried around, purchased some flowers for a bouquet last minute, met with second shooter Di-ana and husband Victor the videographer who had driven all night from the north of Germany to be with us for the day and had drunk several coffees. Finally, we were all ready to roll, Alex and I were made up and wearing traditional costume and after 5 minutes in the car we were in the middle of one of the biggest festivals in Europe.
It wasn’t until after we had arrived at the town hall where we were due to hold the ceremony, met with the TV camera crews AND calmed down the lovely Mrs Gruner who was holding the ceremony for us…did anyone tell me that I was missing a rather important part of my outfit…
It happened like this…Mrs Gruner realised that the TV crew milling around were there to cover our story and not just the festival going on outside. She immediately went into a mild form of shock and told us she hadn’t realised they would be there. We calmed her, explaining that we hadn’t known either and that we could just stop any time and re-do the whole thing. Just before it was really scary she began to breathe again and then she looked at me properly and said “where is your blouse?”
I had thought while I was putting it on that the dress was rather low and revealing (for those with something to reveal) but I was assured it was fine…but nope, I was supposed to be wearing a blouse to cover up SOME of my bust and my shoulders!
It was too late to do anything about it, barring borrow someone else’s blouse, but all of the ladies accompanying us were a lot more busty than I was and would definitely be more naked than me so I went with it. We just laughed it off and got on with it with nerves multiplying by the second.
Mrs Gruner told us the story of the famous wedding as I have told you above and explained how important it had been at the time for the union to happen, she took us into the registry office and we took a seat on the couch, it was a very relaxed way to get married and we tried our best not to get too comfortable! It seemed strange to be sat relaxing whilst saying two of the most important words in our lives…I DO!
Mrs Gruner read the ceremony in German and did so well regardless of her nerves and with the flood light from the press cameras in her face. As much as the wedding and the setting was beautiful the whole thing did turn out to be a little bit of a disaster.
The TV crew got in Ana, Di-ana and Victors way so much so that they didn’t get any footage. They kept stopping and starting Mrs Gruner which made her worry a little more and completely spoiled the moment for us and then to ensure that our vendors got the pictures that they deserved and had come so far for, we decided to do the whole thing again to get the shots.
The ceremony included exchanging small wreaths as rings which was a beautiful touch!
Once the wedding was over and everyone had their shots we said our farewells and left Mrs Gruner to get over all of the excitement and nerves! We went into the town and sat outside with a beer to celebrate and to laugh about it. As we drank said beer and ate a enormous pretzel it began to rain…BIG rain, putting a dampener (pardon the pun) on the images we had hoped for during the festival on the streets.
We sat it out waiting for it to clear a little so we could take a few shots with the performers and in the beautifully decorated Aldstadt…in the end we just decided to brave it and get wet. We ran around with Ana and got what we needed and headed back to the hotel where we ordered wine, chattered the night away and collapsed into bed accordingly by 9.30 pm.
We had had such a wonderful day in the end but HAD to take the whole experience on board. We had learned a few good lessons. Sometimes TV crews can get a little intrusive and we need to be less British and more firm with who we let boss who around. If we weren’t so laid back a lot of things could have completely ruined our day! BUT we went to bed SO excited as Mrs Gruner had kindly given us tickets to watch the Bridal Parade the next day.
After seeing just snippets of the performances we were delighted to be invited to watch more and we were up with the lark to get to town to take our seats in the glorious sunshine the next day.
The performance just blew us away. The costumes, the way everyone got involved, the wreath throwing and collecting (you throw a small flowered wreath to a suitor as they pass and then they hang it from their belt..some had several wreaths and were VERY proud), the enormous horses in battle armour, the flag throwing, flame swallowing, child slinging, jesting, dancing, fluting, singing, marching, walking, waving…everything was just perfect! We really felt like we were in the moment and part of this fantastic celebration.
We were sad to leave Landshut after the festival but we had arranged to meet with Di-ana, Victor and Anna in Munich that night and we had a forward journey planned to Prague for our 51st wedding in only 2 days…
We said our farewells and ever grateful thanks to Ana who had come so far for us. We hoped we would see her again in Romania and hit the road once more with great memories, having learned great lessons and with great excitement about our next wild wedding adventure!